What do women wear in Muslim countries? Your answer to this question is probably completely inaccurate! Most of us foreigners tend to have very pre-conceived (and usually incorrect) views about Muslim women and fashion!
With regards clothing and fashion, let me shed some light on what fashion is here, what is important, and how women judge women in Egypt.
The all important Hand-bag!
Probably the most important item in a woman’s cupboard is her handbag, or should I say, are her handbags. Almost every woman you see on the street will be very proudly displaying her handbag. And there are many important aspects to consider when purchasing a handbag:
SIZE: Egyptian woman are not shy when it comes to size! The bigger the better.
COLOUR: White or beige is the standard colour for summer. Black is normal, ordinary and even boring but used by the “older” women during all year. But ideally, bags should be part of a whole colour statement: matching the head-scarf, shoes and shirt, the brighter the better!
BLING: Egyptian women love shiny things: so the more bling on the bag the better. Leather or plastic does not count. Most women go for more bags at a cheaper price! Variety is the key: mix and match. Definitely not one bag for all days.
So, if you are a woman, do not come to Egypt with a small black bag, or worse, a backpack: you will be shunned by the women as having no fashion sense at all!
The head scarf:
Many outsiders think of the head covering as a symbol of oppression! Not so here… the scarves worn by most of the younger women are bright, colourful, tied in many different ways and say a lot about the personality of the wearer. Get on the ladies metro or tram carriage… (if you are a woman of course) and have a good look at the scarves: it is an interesting past-time: look how it is folded and pinned, look at the pins used, how many scarves, how it is tied….
A minority will wear the complete black covering, but then, look at the gloves, handbag and shoes! Even completely veiled in black… there is still a fashion statement!
Baubles, bangles and beads…
Egyptian women love gold and their men like to give them gold and indeed MUST give them gold when they get engaged and married. So look at the wrists, fingers and necklaces of the engaged and married women: there is a story in each of the items. For the younger girls, they love necklaces, bracelets and rings: the shinier the better, the bigger the better, the more colours the better!
So if you want to blend in as much as you can, go bright, go bold, go big handbag….. but most importantly, go conservative and moderate: revealing flesh is not conducive to building bridges into this society and making friends with the women…..